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Otakon 2012
Gen Urobuchi Focus panel

by Justin Sevakis,

Before starting, Aniplex asked fans not to take pictures or video of the notoriously camera-shy Urobuchi, who appeared in the program guide as an amorphous black blob with eyes. Writer/creator of Fate/Zero, Madoka Magica, and several others, Urobuchi was brought on stage wearing a zip-up hood that covered his whole face. (He unzipped it immediately, to cheers.)

"I started as a PC game writer, and then moved into anime, and it's become what I'm known for... but I'm only doing anime for the next two years," he began. When asked what he thought of American anime fans, he said that it was his second time in the States, and the fans are very happy, and it was good to see.

They then opened the floor for Q&A. The first fan asked about the inspiration behind Fate/Zero. "In the original Fate/stay night, you had Saber, who is King Arthur, who is also King Gilgamesh. The order I received was to have someone worthy of a three-way stand-off with both Saber and Gilgamesh, someone who was different, but could hold their own against them."

A question about Madoka Magica was about the potential of exploring the story of some of the witches who were once magical girls. "When I wrote the script, I didn't have any of the witches' back stories. It was actually the designer who designed how they look and came up with their back stories. For the upcoming movie, it was actually that designer that brought me up to speed with their back stories."

What was it like working with producer Atsuhiro Iwakami and director Akiyuki Shinbo? "Neither one is the type to show their hand, they would always wait for me to make the next move."

What was his most important experience as a screenwriter, relating to Madoka? "Before I worked on Madoka, I worked with Ichiro Itano on Blassreiter, and he taught me what it meant to work on a screenplay, and then with Yōsuke Kuroda, who taught me the spirit behind screenplays. I consider both of them my mentors."

If you had the choice to become a magical girl, would you? What would your wish be, and possibly, what would your costume look like? "I am very suspicious in nature, so if I ever got such a rosy offer, I'd consider it very suspicious and consider them whispers of a devil. The first thing I'd do is try to find out what kind of true identity this devil may have."

Do you have any relationship with the series composer Yuki Kajiura? "I've been a fan of her works as an anime composer for a long time, and there was this one particular title called The Portrait of Petit Cosette, which she wrote the music for, and was directed by Shinbo. So when when we were discussing Madoka, I told Shinbo that my imagery for the wishes came directly from that soundtrack. He told that to Iwakami-san, who gave his blessing to work with her. I've met with her a few times, she's very well-acquainted with the stories, and reads every script."

There have been rumors that Shinbo asked you to change the ending to make it happier. What was that like? "This was something that director Shinbo proposed at one of the dubbing sessions, that Sayaka Miki could've been kept alive in the story. But my conviction was that in order for the audience to really understand why Madoka became a God at the end, it was important that she die. After all was said and done, Shinbo said to me that the amount of responsibility placed on a middle school girl may have been too much. We explore that more in the movie."

Are you planning to do work on any more of the upcoming Fate installments? "It's a very attractive thought, but my schedule is currently full. If I'm ever offered it, though, it'd be a really attractive offer."

Did the differing art styles of SHAFT and ufotable afftect how you thought to express your writing? "Each studio has different styles, and you have to tread carefully to come to consensus with each one of them. I'm surprised every time. But it's sort of like being a crew member on the Enterprise -- working together towards a goal is very rewarding."

Anything about the forthcoming Madoka Magica movie you can share? "I'm not sure if I should be saying this, but there are other secondary Madoka works, such as manga, and since Madoka is about parallel worlds, there's plenty of room for spin-offs. The movie will be a direct continuation of the TV series, and mainly about Homura Akemi, and how she works. That's about as much as I can say right now."

What's your favorite character, and are there any that are similar to you? "I try to keep an even hand with my characters, but whenever I come up with one, I try to keep one thing in common with myself, so I have a hook into them. So far I haven't come up with any characters that are completely foreign from myself."

What are some of the differences in writing for software, versus prose, versus screenplay? "Depending on the genre, things are very different. For PC games, the writing style is completely opposite of what you have to do for screenplays. Text-based PC games are quite expensive -- the cost of 10-20 books -- so you have to have to incorporate a lot of things for fans to feel satisfied, even if it feels tangential. This is completely the opposite of a screenplay -- it's the designers that fill in the cracks, so you don't want to have even a single extraneous line when you turn it in. I think I'm better suited to this bare-bones style of writing, which is why I've been getting such good reviews of my anime work."

Madoka Magica has lots of elements of other Magical Girl series. Which ones influenced you? "Our intention was not to make reference to any show in particular, but since Shinbo directed, the obvious influence was Lyrical Nanoha. But Iwakami hired me after seeing Fate/stay night, so instead I watched Portrait of Petite Cosette for my inspiration."

After a few more questions, the panel was concluded.

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